This is both a recounting of our Labor Day camping trip and Day 1/Week 1 of Kay Arthur’s Bible Study, “Breaking Free From Fear.” I am reviewing this Bible Study for Waterbrook-Multinomah’s Blogging for Books. I will try to post a study more than once a week, but on average it will post once a week.
“Fear can be paralyzing, confusing, wreaking havok in our body and mind. When it hits, the best thing you can do is ask the question Jesus asked of His Disciples: “Why are you afraid?”” – Week 1, Day 1
On Saturday, September 1, an idiot in a black Toyota Tacoma drove the forest roads, randomly shooting from his vehicle. In one of those moments he had stopped his truck just shy of our campsite and shot two times with a high-caliber weapon. As my husband went towards the shooting to warn him he was too close to our campsite, a herd of doe was seen crossing the road. Whether the driver was a poacher or some guy high on something, we called the national forest enforcement. Our voice joined others who had witnessed the man in the truck shooting illegally.
However, we made it clear to the officer that while we may not have seen the weapon, the timing and the nearness of the shooting, plus the description from others and the fact that several more shots were fired after the truck pealed away and disappeared behind a hill convinced us that this man committed a criminal act and put everyone’s lives in danger that night. It was not just this event that illustrated Mark 4:35-41, but the storm that suddenly came upon us the next day, too.
On the last full day of our camping trip on Sunday, we had returned from a long hike in which a thunder cloud chased us back to the campsite. The temperatures dropped. The clouds thickened. My husband, Tony fretted. He wouldn’t eat like he would after an arduous hike. Instead, he paced a lot as the thunder rumbled, echoing across the mountains and lightening flashed overhead. He wondered if we should take down the tarp and worried that this time the storm will be too big.
“We’ve handled storms bigger.” I settled in my chair with Kay Arthur’s, Breaking Free From Fear. Oddly, my Week 1/Day 1 Bible Study that I was reviewing would later prove prophetic.
Round one of the storm began as gentle sprinkles. The thunder was not explosive. I hunched over my Bible and the book. My husband continued to pace. He kept looking at the bungees and rope that held the giant tarp over our small kitchen area, testing its strength, and looking concerned. We’ve learned from many past camping experiences to have a place of shelter so we can enjoy the storms.
Round one of the storm broke just after I finished my first Bible study in this book. I was trying to focus on a new book when the gentle rain became a dangerous, flash flood-yielding downpour. I threw my book into the car, Tony handed me the dog’s leash, and for the next couple of hours, Tony poked the tarp to relieve the ropes and bungees of the amount of water collecting there, and I pulled down one end of the tarp to allow the freezing water to pour over my hands, dampening the sleeves of my sweatshirt, to puddle on the ground.
The dog didn’t appear to mind the rain. When the downpour stopped, our campsite looked like this as the sun poked through. We thought it was done.
And that’s when we noticed the San Francisco Peaks.
The storm wasn’t through. Tony looked through the trees around us and determined these storms were going to roll in and out throughout the rest of the day. When Round 2 began, an explosion of thunder overhead and a bright flash of lightening sent us into the car for safety. That’s when the tarp fell apart against the pummeling force of the wind. We lost six bungees and watched as the tarp flapped against the trunk of a pine, and roads once again became rivers. Deep pools filled our campsite.
“Why don’t we go home? It’s not like this ruins the whole weekend. Tomorrow morning we’ll be going home anyway. If the tarp isn’t fixed, we’ll have wet chairs by morning, if not now. We spent three days here.” I saw his frustration and the stress. My husband wasn’t having a good time and I didn’t relish spending the night in dangerous conditions.
We found a short break where the rain gentled and we stepped up the pace, stuffing things in the car, taking down the tent, undoing the tarp and ropes, and in record time taking down our camping space a day earlier than planned. The lightening became more dangerous and the rain suddenly more violent. We jumped into our respective cars as rain mixed with large hail. That’s when I thought of the Bible Study and the verse as fear coursed through my body and I discovered that my car had a dead battery.
The disciples experienced fear, too, as the storm caused waves to nearly swamp their boat. Jesus was asleep in the boat. The Disciples made haste to wake Him as fear overwhelmed their senses. They asked Jesus in verse 38b, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus challenged them in verse 40 after rebuking the storm and making it calm again, “Why are you afraid? How is it you have no faith?”
The Disciples in verse 41, “became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'” Kay Arthur asks, “Which should be the greater fear: fear of the storm in which we might perish or fear of the One who has authority over the storm? Why?”
In our culture, we have lost our fear of the One who has authority over the storms. It’s evident in some decisions we make where we cheat “only a little” or tell a white lie because we can’t admit to anyone the truth of the matter because we know we’re doing something wrong. We can feel it in our bones, but we don’t pay any heed to it. We fear the world more than we fear or honor our God.
On a humanely lesser offense, most of us live with some sort of fear or fears that may cause us to give up before we have even tried or finished. Fear doesn’t equal trust in the One who controls the storms and parts the seas. And as I sat in my vehicle with the hail pounding the car like hammer blows and the rain turning roads into slushy, un-drivable rivers, I sent a text asking my Facebook friends to pray. Then, I thought of Mark 4:35-41.
“Lord, bring us out of this. Protect my husband from electrocution so we can jump the car. Give us a break, like you did the disciples. Help us to get out of here and home.” I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I prayed the scripture. “You have control over this storm. If it be your will, please give us a break–enough time to jump the car and pack up and get to pavement.”
Fear is an appropriate response, but shouldn’t be the ruling response. We should trust Him.
And soon after sending the text for prayer and praying myself, a break came. The storm eased to a few scattering drops of rain. The car was jumped and the rest of our things packed, and I drove off through mud with one foot on the brake and one on the gas.
In reflection of the entire weekend, I thought of the drive-by shooting and the final storm that could have been dangerous to us had we not listened to God’s urging to pack up and go, and the answer to prayer that was so swift. The drive-by shooter didn’t kill anyone that day or through the night, and he didn’t return the next day. God protected the ranger against the drunk partiers over the hill and us against retaliation for calling.
But I’ll always remember the quiet afternoons spent reading and the last hike of the weekend when God gave us this as a reward to behold:
Thank you, Lord, for teaching us through these storms that you are sovereign. Thank you for reminding us of our smallness when the world would have us believe that humans are their own gods or higher intelligence. Thank you for this weekend and for making it special.